Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Literary Thong

Elizabeth Zelvin

My short story, “Death Will Tank Your Fish,” appears along with twenty-one others in the anthology, Murder New York Style: Fresh Slices. The contributors are all members of the New York/Tristate chapter of Sisters in Crime (one of them, Ken Wishnia, a Mister Sister). Quite a few of us were present at a chapter meeting at which the speaker was a highly motivated PR person who encouraged us to come up with fresh ideas for promoting our work. She was pleased to hear that the anthology’s publisher, L&L Dreamspell, had linked the book to Café Press, which sells promotional materials with any logo or slogan you like. But her face didn’t really light up until she heard about the thong with the row of pizzas across the minuscule front that the site was offering along with more conventional items such as mugs and T-shirts. Then she started talking big. “Contact The New Yorker!” she said. “It’s exactly the kind of story they’d like for Talk of the Town.” In fact, she offered to pitch it for us.

The thong with the row of pizzas seems to have disappeared—sold out, perhaps?—but an equally skimpy thong that displays the book cover (including the pizzas) is still available.
It has a little less pizzazz, but maybe it will still sell books. The product blurb enthuses:

Panty-minimalists love our casual thong that covers sweet spots without covering your assets; putting an end to panty-lines. This under-goodie is "outta sight" in low-rise pants. Toss these message panties onstage at your favorite rock star or share a surprise message with someone special ... later.

What does this have to do with mysteries? Not much. Few of this anthology’s authors, if any, are of an age or figure to be seen or photographed in such a garment. But evidently, little as it has to do with writing, this is what you have to do to get attention for your book in twenty-two-dozen, as a friend of mine calls the new year.

Seems like the way to sell a book these days has to do with anything but writing or being a writer. The week I’m writing this, the top ten New York Times bestsellers in fiction include two by Stieg Larsson (the guy whose untimely demise worked PR miracles, selling better than ever since the movies are coming out), one by James Patterson, known for what he calls “team writing,” one by Tom Clancy with Mark Greaney (evidently another veteran bestseller who doesn’t write his own books any more), Kathryn Stockett’s The Help, a fine first novel that deserves its success, but I suspect this spurt is due to the movie...and the top ten nonfiction authors include a TV anchor (with co-author), “a father [who] recounts his 3-year-old son’s encounter with Jesus and the angels” (with co-author), a star quarterback (with co-author), a, hmm, conservative radio host (with co-author), a Nobel Prize winning economist, and a comic actress (no co-author acknowledged, but do you really think Tina Fey wrote her own book?).

So what I want to know is this: If I bring the pizza panties to, oh, let’s say a Keith Urban concert (country, not rock, but I do think he’s sexy) and lob them at the you think he’ll buy the book?


Sandra Parshall said...

I have to wonder who the targeted audience is, and how large that audience is, when one wears a literary thong. :-)

Elizabeth Zelvin said...

Very small, Sandy, or they couldn't wear 'em. ;)

Anonymous said...

This was the best laugh I had all day! Thanks, Liz!

Lynn in Texas

Elizabeth Zelvin said...

Glad to hear it, Lynn. :)

Jeri Westerson said...

I kind of do think Tina Fey wrote her own book. She is a writer, after all.

But the list is interesting when you consider that many of the books include ghost writers.

Anita Page said...

Liz, I think all of us in the anthology should attend a concert together--Tony Bennett, maybe?--and have a mass thong toss.

Elizabeth Zelvin said...

Anita, I'm not old enough for Tony Bennett. I'll stick with Keith Urban.

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